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Andrew Wahl: Microsoft's prospects beyond Gates, XP

Money Talks is a collection of daily columns from The Business Network, which airs weekday mornings on CBC Radio One at 5:45 a.m. ET (6:15 a.m. ET in N.L.).

All good things must come to an end. And in the case of Microsoft, two important finales will occur on June 30th: Bill Gates will officially retire from his executive duties; and the Windows XP operating system will no longer be for sale. Only one of these milestones has inspired more than 200,000 people to sign a petition in hopes of postponing the deadline. And it has nothing to do with trying to change the mind of the world's richest person.

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Andrew Wahl: Brace for Browser Wars 2.0

Money Talks is a collection of daily columns from The Business Network, which airs weekday mornings on CBC Radio One at 5:45 a.m. ET (6:15 a.m. ET in N.L.).

Last week, something happened in Silicon Valley that hasn't happened in quite a while: a startup company making a new web browser raised venture capital. $15 million, in fact. The company is called Flock, and it has a Canadian connection: the development team is based in Victoria.

Now, you'll recall that web browsers were once the Internet's biggest battlefront. It was Netscape's rocket-fueled IPO in 1995 that first blasted hot air into the dot-com bubble. And it was Microsoft's use of its Windows monopoly to stomp out Netscape that got Bill Gates & Company into trouble with anti-trust watchdogs.

Not that the lawyers made much difference. In 2003, Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser commanded 95-per cent market share. Today, three quarters of all web surfers still use IE, even as the open-source browser Firefox has gained prominence, as has Apple's browser, Safari.

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Andrew Wahl: Sony's Blu-ray win may be a little hollow

Money Talks is a collection of daily columns from The Business Network, which airs weekday mornings on CBC Radio One at 5:45 a.m. ET (6:15 a.m. ET in N.L.).

The dust has settled from Sony and Toshiba's battle over high-definition DVD formats. And in the light of day, it looks like the spoils from Sony's victory may not be so great.

Toshiba ceded the market to Sony's Blu-ray technology in February. Sony's triumph was supposed to be sweet redemption after its failure with Betamax video tapes.

But already there are signs that this victory may be a little hollow. Blu-ray is hardly a bust, but there is growing doubt that it will be widely adopted.

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Andrew Willis: Cleaning up the oil sands mess

Money Talks is a collection of daily columns from The Business Network, which airs weekday mornings on CBC Radio One at 5:45 a.m. ET (6:15 a.m. ET in N.L.).

There are days I wish I had studied environmental engineering - not journalism - back at university. I'd be Alberta-bound right now. There's good money to be made in mining the oil sands and there's even better money to be made in cleaning up the mess.

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Andrew Wahl: A gloomy outlook for Nortel

Money Talks is a collection of daily columns from The Business Network, which airs weekday mornings on CBC Radio One at 5:45 a.m. ET (6:15 a.m. ET in N.L.).

Stock market predictions are not my thing. But I'll go out on a limb here and tell you what to expect from Nortel Friday morning, when it reports its first quarter financial results: not a whole heckuva lot.

Analysts certainly aren't hopeful. Not one of 19 analysts who follow Nortel think it will report a profit. On average, they estimate a loss of 14 cents a share, and essentially flat revenue growth from a year earlier.

Of course, in a strange way no news is good news when it comes to Nortel. It doesn't do much for the stock price, though. It's down about 45 per cent this year already-and that's after the share value was cut in half last year.

The most investors can hope is that CEO Mike Zafirovski will report that telecom carrier spending is holding up well, despite the rocky U.S. and European economies. It's a tough business to be in right now.

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Andrew Wahl: Path uncertain for GPS companies

Money Talks is a collection of daily columns from The Business Network, which airs weekday mornings on CBC Radio One at 5:45 a.m. ET (6:15 a.m. ET in N.L.).

If you don't already have one, you've probably seen them glowing from the dashboards of passing cars: GPS naviation devices. The compact, mobile computing gadgets use mapping technology and satellite signals to help motorists find their merry way.

Personal navigation devices have been one of the hottest segments of consumer electronics in recent years. They're perfectly suited as one of those not-too-expensive luxury gizmos that buyers can rationalize as useful tools. But that also makes them perfectly suited to take collateral damage in any economic downturn. When discretionary spending starts shrinking, opening a map no longer seems to hard.

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Andrew Wahl: Battling PC bloatware

Money Talks is a collection of daily columns from The Business Network, which airs weekday mornings on CBC Radio One at 5:45 a.m. ET (6:15 a.m. ET in N.L.).


Sometimes, getting more than you paid for is not such a good thing.

Consider any PC or laptop that you've bought in recent memory. Chances are the computer came with a lot of different programs that you didn't order. Most of them, likely, were trial versions that limited the number of times you could use them, or they might have been completely free to use, just so long as you registered online. Techies call these unwanted programs "bloatware."

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Andrew Wahl: Will the Internet highway become gridlocked?

Money Talks is a collection of daily columns from The Business Network, which airs weekday mornings on CBC Radio One at 5:45 a.m. ET (6:15 a.m. ET in N.L.).

At the risk of over-taxing your mind so early in the morning, let's do a mental experiment: try to picture all the digital information you will create today. All the e-mails. All the web surfing. Every document, presentation, digital photograph, music or video download. Don't forget phone calls, because they're likely digital, too.

It's safe to say that by the time you lay your head down tonight, you'll have generated lots and lots of ones and zeros. All those bits and bytes add up to make quite a large digital footprint.

Now extrapolate that out one year. Then consider everyone, every company, every computer in the world.

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Andrew Wahl: A contrarian's view of the looming IT shortage

Money Talks is a collection of daily columns from The Business Network, which airs weekday mornings on CBC Radio One at 5:45 a.m. ET (6:15 a.m. ET in N.L.).

Recently, several studies have sounded the alarm over a looming shortage of skills in information technology. One report estimated that this country is facing a gap of 89,000 IT jobs in the next three to five years, some two-thirds of which will be new positions.

What's worse, enrollment at universities for computer engineering, computer science and software engineering programs have declined by some 22 per cent since 2002.

Sounds bad, right? Well, it might not be as bad in the long run as you think.

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Andrew Wahl: The end of the DVD format war

Money Talks is a collection of daily columns from The Business Network, which airs weekday mornings on CBC Radio One at 5:45 a.m. ET (6:15 a.m. ET in N.L.).

If you're one of the unfortunate early-adopters who bought an HD-DVD player in the last two years, well, I hope you've also bought a boat for that high-tech anchor.

Because after five years of battling it out with Sony over which company's technology will be the standard for the next generation of DVDs, Toshiba is raising the white flag. Toshiba pulled out of its HD DVD business this week, leaving Sony's Blu-ray as the de facto standard for high-def DVD players.

The format war is over.

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